Ukip seeks second MP in by-election

Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Voters in Rochester and Strood go to the polls today in a by-election which could see the election of a second Ukip MP.

In a campaign dominated by immigration, Mark Reckless is the strong favourite to regain the Kent constituency having defected from the Tories and then stepped down to fight the seat under Ukip colours.

Victory for Nigel Farage’s party would be another wounding blow for David Cameron whose hopes of regaining No 10 in next year’s general election are threatened by Ukip’s surge in the polls.

The Conservatives have already seen the previously safe Tory seat of Clacton fall to Mr Reckless’s fellow defector to Ukip, Douglas Carswell.

The fear among the Tory high command is that a second convincing by-election victory for Ukip could encourage other waverers in the Conservative ranks to jump ship and join them.

Defeat would be particularly damaging for the Conservatives as they had originally claimed that – unlike in Clacton where Mr Carswell had established a strong personal following – they stood a good chance of winning in Rochester and Strood.

Tory MPs were ordered to make at least three campaign visits to the constituency and Mr Cameron put his own authority on the line by going five times.

But with the opinion polls consistently pointing to a Ukip victory, in recent days the Conservatives have been seeking to play down expectations that they could come out on top.

The hope among senior Tories would now appear to be that the margin of their defeat will be sufficiently narrow to deter other potential defectors.

They have taken encouragement from some polls which have suggested that former Conservative voters planning to support Ukip in the by-election will return to them in the general election in May.

Ukip was hit by an eve-of-poll row after other parties seized on comments by Mr Reckless during a televised hustings to argue he had come “dangerously close” to advocating a policy of repatriation for immigrants from elsewhere in the EU.

After Mr Reckless claimed his words had been “twisted” by his rivals, Mr Farage was forced to step in to insist that those who had come to Britain legally would be entitled to remain.

Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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